Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R) this week became the latest Republican to use racist language to describe the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, even as hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans continue to rise.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Blackburn shared a Washington Post opinion piece urging that the coronavirus be linked to the Chinese regime. “Rather than help prevent the spread of the Chinese Coronavirus,” Blackburn said, “the Communist party focused their efforts on punishing those who spoke out.”
Blackburn is hardly the first Republican to use racist language in discussing the outbreak. Donald Trump has repeatedly dropped inflammatory phrases into various tweets and comments. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) has demanded China pay reparations, tweeting the hashtag #MakeChinaPay. One White House official reportedly even called it the “Kung Flu” while speaking to a Chinese American journalist.
Experts have warned that using geographic terms to describe viruses can lead to discrimination.
The World Health Organization has said doing so “has had unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities or economic sectors.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said contributing to stigma during his outbreak “hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem.” The NAACP and congressional leaders of color have condemned the language as dangerous.
According to a recent People report, people of Asian descent are already facing increased racist attacks amid the pandemic, as nations “worldwide are reporting an uptick in assaults […].”
New York City police announced two arrests this week in anti-Asian hate crimes. One person is accused of harassing and pushing a Hong Kong-born man who was walking with his 10-year-old child, yelling, “Where the [expletive] is your mask?” at them. Another teen has been accused of kicking a man and telling him to go back to his country, mentioning the coronavirus in the process.
Trump has continued to defend his use of racist terminology regardless of the rise in hate-fueled incidents, claiming Wednesday that calling it a “Chinese virus” is “not racist at all” and was “accurate.”
His counselor, Kellyanne Conway, responded to criticism of those comments on Wednesday morning, stating that she is “married to an Asian.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the official White House Twitter feed mocked “the media’s fake outrage” about the term.
“Spanish Flu. West Nile Virus. Zika. Ebola. All named for places,” officials wrote. “Those trying to divide us must stop rooting for America to fail and give Americans real info they need to get through the crisis.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.